WWE Elimination Chamber 2023 review: a special moment but a missed opportunity…
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After a fun Royal Rumble positioned Cody Rhodes and Rhea Ripley in their respective WrestleMania main event spots, Elimination Chamber comes along to potentially add a twist to Mania plans or to get us on the fast lane to those already established destinations. And this year, the talk was all about WrestleZaynia!! Could Sami Zayn topple the untopple-able Roman Reigns in his hometown, 8 years to the day of his WWE debut? And be the disrupter to Mania season in the process? I think we all know the answer but would WWE be so brave?
Here is what went down at the 2023 Elimination Chamber!
1. Women’s Elimination Chamber Match to Determine the No.1 Contender for the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania
Carmella vs. Nikki Cross vs. Asuke vs. Liv Morgan vs. Raquel Rodriguez vs. Natalya
The winner of this one was to be set on a collision course with Bianca Belair, and with that in mind, the obvious choice by a mile seemed to be the Empress of Tomorrow Asuke, who has been re-energised ever since returning at the Rumble with a darker persona. And she rightly would emerge the victor in this fun but far too brief Chamber match. The ladies hit some great spots (Liv Morgan’s jaw-dropping chamber top sunset flip, Nikki Cross’ chamber top dive (and sterling manic character work) and multi-person moves delivered very smoothly). I enjoyed the match but felt they could have fleshed it out a little more before Asuke got that submission victory over Carmella.
2. Bobby Lashley vs. Brock Lesnar
Bray Wyatt challenging the victor/survivor of this third clash of the behemoths on the Smackdown prior, which admittedly added more intrigue to this match but should have been something left as a later shock, because sadly this was the first missed opportunity in a night with a couple of them (that first Chamber match’s time limits being the first). At under 5 minutes, this high impact array of brawling and finishers looked to be just getting going before the lame DQ finish, where Brock Lesnar low blow’d Bobby Lashley to escape the Hurt Lock. And left him (and the ref) downed afterwards. Very disappointing, just like their first clash…only way shorter. You can’t just dangle the Bray Wyatt element and end like that! Plus, these two have had three matches now. Two of which were dirty finishes. And one of which was a win but with an Asterix. This may all lead some place, rumours are on Lashley vs. Wyatt, Brock vs. Wyatt or a Triple Threat Match. But all I can hope is next time they go all out with this, and (if he is involved) that Bray actually gets a Mania win and improves that 1-4 WM record! Real buzzkiller of a match here.
3. Mixed Tag Team Match
Edge and Beth Phoenix vs. The Judgment Day (Finn Balor and Rhea Ripley) w/ Dominik Mysterio
The Grit Couple are back to for vengeance after the events of Extreme Rules last October and this mixed tag team match was thankfully better than the forgettable Edge and Beth Phoenix vs. The Miz and Maryse affair at the Royal Rumble last year. Imperfect maybe (as there was a clear penultimate miscalculation) and certainly here to extend this story and give Beth a degree of retribution before Rhea moves on to Charlotte Flair but I enjoyed it enough. Though Edge vs. Finn Balor at WrestleMania (maybe in Hell in a Cell) is surely going to be the real endgame of this whole thing isn’t it?
4. Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE United States Championship
Austin Theory (c) vs. Montez Ford vs. Bronson Reed vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Damian Priest vs. Seth “Freakin” Rollins
This was arguably the match of the evening (and I emphasise arguably) and certainly the best of the two Chamber affairs. Comprised of largely up and coming stars, this Chamber title match was a 30 minute thrill, which made everybody look fantastic and really elevated the show, and had more memorable spots than I can name. Seth Rollins is always damn good, Damian Priest got a rare chance at solo glory, Bronson Reed looked like a new beast in the making (love his Godzilla-inspired titantron graphic), Johnny Gargano finally got a chance to show the main roster what he can do, Montez Ford shows us all that he is a new big star in the making (and his solo run is probably coming soon) and Austin Theory shockingly retained his gold in a hell of a match against five game competitors. Well, he did so with a little help from an interfering Logan Paul who cost Seth the match and put in motion what should be a great Mania match. Fantastic match…and that crazy Montez ceiling dive was heart in mouth stuff!
5. WWE Undisputed Universal Championship Match
Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Sami Zayn
We all knew Sami would not be the one didn’t we? We just knew it? And yet, the argument can truly be made here that he really should have been. The Montreal crowd were hot all night but this match was special. The story, atmosphere and stars all seemed to have aligned for one night only. Was the match good? Yes. Great in fact. An exciting 30+ minutes of drama and character work, with Roman being the detestable heel and Sami the hometown hero fighting the giant with guts and a slingshot. But, despite its successes, I feel this will go down as a Sting/Undertaker and Triple H/Booker T sized missed opportunity. As events progressed and the magic expanded, it was clear here that, like Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004, the time was never better to be brave and pull that trigger, and then that cold feet finish was…well, it was a choice. Out came Jimmy Uso, the ref bumps, the cliche, and an uncertain Jey Uso, and the pinfall win for Reigns that utterly winded the crowd. They sent people home happy(?) with post-match events that saw Kevin Owens return (illogically 10 mins too late) to save Sami, with Zayn and Owens leaving The Bloodline lying (which I guess is an accomplishment in itself), but overall this just had a taste of “he’s not our guy” and OK, we know there was nearly no chance of it happening. But my word, they did perhaps too good of a job of promising a miracle here (with the long term story, that Cody/Zayn segment on Raw, etc.), and what better way would there have been to cut through the WWE formula? And make this Mania season unpredictable and fresh? Even if it was a short term moment…What a moment it would have been! The pop we’ll never hear. This left the feeling that this new era of WWE may still have some of the lingering traits of the thinking that came before.
Elimination Chamber was a good show, hampered by how much better it could have been. Nothing was out and out bad, and some matches were excellent but this could have been full of more twists and turns and added more drama to the drive to the show of shows. I know you should review what you have but WWE promised more than they gave really. Plus, I will die on the hill that WWE should have pushed the button here for Zayn, it would have created an unmatchable moment in a storyline that many have called one of the best in recent WWE history. Instead, while still a decent show, it does leave one wondering what might have been. Plus, it hopefully won’t harm Mania programmes like Rhodes/Reigns and the tag title clash – I presume – between The Usos and Zayn/KO, the latter of which especially could really be seen as a consolation prize after all this.
Ah well, see you in Hollywood, for WrestleMania!